Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mercantile Insurance Co vs. Ysmael

Facts: Felipe Ysmael, Jr. & Co., Inc. and Magdalena Estate, lnc. represented by Felipe Ysmael, Jr. as president and in his personal capacity executed with the plaintiff Mercantile Insurance Co., Inc. an indemnity agreement. The defendants Felipe Ysmael, Jr. & Co., Inc. and Felipe Ysmael, Jr. bound jointly and severally to indemnify the plaintiff, from and against any and all payments, damages, costs, losses, penalties, charges and expenses which said company as surety (MERICO Bond No. 0007) shall incur or become liable to pay. 

Paragraph 3 of the indemnity agreement expressly provides: 

3) ACCRUAL OF ACTION: Notwithstanding the provisions of the next preceding paragraph, where the obligation involves a liquidated amount for the payment of which the company has become legally liable under the terms of the obligation and its suretyship undertaking or by the demand of the obligee or otherwise and the latter has merely allowed the COMPANY a term or extension for payment of the latter's demand the full amount necessary to discharge the COMPANY's aforesaid liability irrespective of whether or not payment has actually been made by the COMPANY, the COMPANY for the protection of its interest may forthwith proceed against the undersigned or either of them by court action or otherwise to enforce payment even prior to making payment to the obligee which may hereafter be done by the COMPANY. 

Tordesillas and Torres in their official capacities and the defendants executed another indemnity agreement with the plaintiff in consideration of the surety bond (MERICO Bond No. G (16) 0030. In the indemnity agreement the same provisions of paragraph 3 is found. 

Later on, the amount of the Bond was reduced by P40,000.00 so that the total liability of the plaintiff to the Philippine National Bank in view of the aforesaid reduction is P100,000.00, P60,000.00 on Surety Bond No. 0007 plus P40,000.00 on Surety Bond No. 0030. 

The defendants failed to pay the overdraft and credit line with the Philippine National Bank demanded from Mercantil, settlement of its obligation under surety bonds No. (G-16)-0007 for P 60,000.00 which expired on March 6, 1970 and No. G (-16)- 0030 for P 40,000.00 which expired since September 4, 1968 (Exh. P) Attached to the demand letter is a statement of account. 

By letter of December 17, 1970, plaintiff company wrote a letter of demand to the defendants regarding the the letter of demand of the Philippine National Bank sent to the plaintiff and demanding from the defendants the settlement of said account. The defendants failed to settle their obligation with the Philippine National Bank, on February 10, 1971, plaintiff brought the present action. 

Lower court dismissed case for lack of cause of action, the plaintiff has paid nothing in the surety bonds, therefore, they have not suffered any actual damage and held that paragraph 3 of contract is void. 

Defendants argued that to allow surety to receive indemnity or compensation for something it has not paid in its capacity as surety would constitute unjust enrichment at the expense of another. 

Issue: Whether or not surety can be allowed indemnification from the defendants-appellants, upon the latter's default even before the former has paid to the creditor. 

Held: The overdraft line of Php1M and the credit line of Php1M applied for by the defendant was granted by the Philippine National Bank on the strength of the two surety bonds denominated as Bond No. G(16) 0007 and Bond No. G(16) 0030. 

As security and in consideration of the execution of the surety bonds, the defendants executed with the plaintiff identical indemnity agreements which provide that payment of indemnity or compensation may be claimed whether or not plaintiff company has actually paid the same as provided in paragraph 3 of contract. 

The cause of action was derived from the terms of the Indemnity Agreement, paragraph 3 thereof. By virtue of the provisions of the Indemnity Agreement, defendants-appellants have undertaken to hold plaintiff-appellee free and harmless from any suit, damage or liability which may be incurred by reason of non-performance by the defendants-appellants of their obligation with the Philippine National Bank. The Indemnity Agreement is principally entered into as security of plaintiff-appellee in case of default of defendants-appellants; and the liability of the parties under the surety bonds is joint and several, so that the obligee PNB may proceed against either of them for the satisfaction of the obligation. 

There is no dispute as to meaning of the terms of the Indemnity Agreement. Having voluntarily entered into such contract, the appellants cannot now be heard to complain. Their indemnity agreement have the force and effect of law. 

The principal debtors, defendants-appellants herein, are the same persons who executed the Indemnity Agreement. Thus, the position occupied by them is that of a principal debtor and indemnitor at the same time, and their liability being joint and several with the plaintiff-appellee's, the Philippine National Bank may proceed against either for fulfillment of the obligation as covered by the surety bonds. There is no principle of guaranty involved and, therefore, the provision of Article 2071 of the Civil Code does not apply. There is no more need for the plaintiff-appellee to exhaust all the properties of the principal debtor before it may proceed against defendants-appellants. 

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